Hugo van der Goes
An obscure genius about whom little is known; spent his last years in a monastery, going mad. The only work known for certain to be by him is the Portinari Altarpiece (c. 1475). It was commissioned for a chapel in Florence and introduced Italian artists to new ideas and techniques of Northern Europe, and the technique of oil painting.
The Portinari Altarpiece is commissioned to be the standard size of Italian triptych. There are Portinari men (members of a prosperous Florentine mercantile family) in the left panel, women in the right (each with patron saints); the composite central panel has Virgin and Child (naked child on floor is a northern idea), Joseph and shepherds (an Italian idea); the Magi are at the back of the right panel.
The kneeling man on the left panel is Tomasso Portinari, agent in Bruges for the Medici bank — he was reckless and the bank was closed. Next to Tommaso are his two sons. The kneeling women on the right panel are Tommaso’s wife Maria and daughter Margherita. Much symbolism: scarlet lily as blood and passion of Christ; discarded shoe as holy ground; purple columbine as Virgin’s sorrow, and so on.
Hugo van der Goes’s major works are Death of our Lady, c. 1470 (Bruges: Municipal Museums); The Fall of Man, c. 1475 (Vienna: Kunsthistorisches Museum); Portrait of a Man, c. 1475 (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art); The Adoration of the Magi, 1470s (Bath, UK: Victoria Art Gallery).
- Robert Cumming. Art: complete encyclopedia. – 512 p. – Moscow: Astrel, 2005.